X-Men #19, April, 1966

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X-Men #19, April, 1966

“Uh oh! Don’t try anything Angel!—Unless you wanna get tickled with this icy toothpick!”

Central Conflict: The X-Men VS Mimic

Comic within a comic:

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…And we’re back! After “months” of recovery from the bouts of Magneto and Sentinel battling, we rejoin the X-Men in—where else?—the Danger Room. Cyclops leads the team in familiar rounds of exercises designed to underscore (rather than challenge) their powers. Once more, Beast’s bouncing gets a lot of screen time, as does the plucky Iceman. “That’s okay, Warry! I didn’t mean to toss a whole mess of ice flakes at you either!” Ice flakes. Warry.

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Xavier arrives on the scene to congratulate the team on doing what we’ve seen them do at least 19 times before. He also has something to say to his students, “I have an announcement for you! … First, I’ll shut off all the electronic booby traps!” Always a good way to begin a speech.

The “announcement” is a few vacation days which the students spend in some pretty rote ways: Hank and Bobby go cruising for “gals” at the New York City Public Library, Jean goes shopping, and Cyclops withdraws into his usual mopery.

We follow Hank and Bobby first, who get right into some comedy with librarians Zelda and Vera.

—Do you always blush that way, Mr. McCoy?

—It’s the only way I know!

The cheery scene is interrupted by the arrival of one Calvin Rankin. A local hothead with—apparently—his sights set on Vera.

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Calvin and Hank come to blows almost instantly. To no one’s Hank’s surprise, Calvin is able to match his agility and speed exactly. Bobby jumps into the fray and just like that, Calvin can whip up ice attacks. Calvin bounds away from the fight but we stay with him and are granted access to his thoughts. He has long had the ability to mimic the powers of nearby mutants. If he could pull off ice tricks and agility feats, then it follows that he must have been mimicking the famous X-Men out of costume just now.

We follow this charming Calvin to a local shopping mall cafeteria where he gets pretty worked up over some table sugar.

When he involuntarily levitates the sugar to him, he deduces other X-Men are nearby. The fabulous Marvel Girl in particular.

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Calvin thinks, “That chick hasta be Marvel Girl—the one with the power of telekinesis! If I follow her, she’s sure to lead me to the others!” We’ve seen this before: The Villain of the Month uses one X-Man to track down or lure the others. But why Calvin? What’s this guy’s deal?

The next day, the X-Men are all x-plaining these events to Professor X. Hank says, “It’s true, professor! He had the same, identical powers as Bobby and I!” (Bad grammar, Hank.)

As they’re discussing this new imminent threat, the doorbell rings. A bespectacled Calvin Rankin arrives and introduces himself to the Professor and his students. All are understandably wary of Calvin—who does himself no favors when he says to Jean, “If you’re wondering how I got here—it’s ‘cuz I followed you from that place!”

Calvin reveals himself to be a fully-formed (and costumed) supervillain here to take on all of the X-Men directly.

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The costumed Calvin calls himself Mimic. Not bad.

He tangles with all of  the X-Men simultaneously. His ability to duplicate their powers stymies them each, including Professor X. He battles them all to a standstill and then absconds with Marvel Girl. She cries, “Don’t you know how hopeless this is? There’s no place you can go where the X-Men won’t find you!”

Mimic drives Marvel Girl to an abandoned mine. This is kinda cool: As Mimic travels further from the X-Men, his powers (save Jean’s) are proportionately reduced—his Angel’s wings diminish, his body loses Beast’s neandertal shape. He takes Marvel Girl into a hidden living space where he explains his origin story because we’ve got pages to fill.

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The story is pretty haphazard. Calvin’s father was a mysterious scientist working on something “more dangerous” than anyone has ever dreamed (never explained). During a moment of youthful curiosity, the young Calvin slips into the lab and disturbs some equipment, accidentally contaminating himself with whatever nefarious materials his father has been synthesizing.

Calvin spends his next years developing into a strange little punk who can mimic the human and mutant abilities near him. Examples: he becomes a baseball, boxing, and scholastic hero. It’s more than a little unclear why he’s better than everyone at everything. Shouldn’t he just be equivalent? And also, if he’s not just mimicking mutant powers, then what are the rules of his mimicry? Might not he involuntarily mimic the school boxing hero’s haymakers and debilitating sunlight allergy (or whatever).

Calvin’s father—the mysterious scientist—takes his son into this very mine so that he can build his son a machine that would his boy’s “powers last forever”.

Here’s where the retelling becomes shamefully sloppy. “For months they hid in the cave while scientist built a machine… But the machine drained so much current that it short-circuited every fuse in the country—!” This nationwide blackout draws an angry mob to their mine. The scientist fatehr dies trying to seal the mine and protect his son. The machine that will somehow make Mimic’s mimicry permanent is lost beneath the collapsed earth.

So Mimic’s raison d’être now is deduced—and helpfully announced—by Jean, “You were that boy! And you want the X-Men to follow you here, so you can trick them into reaching the machine for you!”

As this nonsense story unfurls, Mimic’s wings revitalize7mdash;the X-Men are near!

Now that Mimic can harness all of the X-Men’s powers again, he uses Cyclops’ optic blast to tunnel further into the earth toward his father’s machine.

A last minute battle ensues and Mimic seems to win again.

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Mimic takes up Professor X and positions himself within his father’s machine, ready to throw the switch and—he thinks—make permanent his powers of mimicry.

But instead Mimic collapses.

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Xavier explains to his team that, actually, Calvin’s dad never wanted his son to retain his powers. “Although the lad didn’t realize it, his father created the machine to take those powers away!” How Xavier knows this is unclear. Xavier gives Calvin his signature mindwipe treatment and Calvin ambles away to an uncertain future. Almost like this issue is mimicking other, better issues of the same comic.

M for “meh.”